033014Mark 9:2–13—The transfiguration

2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain. No one else was there. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance changed, 3 and his clothing became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly process could ever make it. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. 5 “Teacher, this is wonderful!” Peter exclaimed. “We will make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He didn’t really know what to say, for they were all terribly afraid. 7 Then a cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” 8 Suddenly they looked around, and Moses and Elijah were gone, and only Jesus was with them. 9 As they descended the mountainside, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until he, the Son of Man, had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” 11 Now they began asking him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” 12 Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. Why then is it written in the Scriptures that the Son of Man must suffer and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and he was badly mistreated, just as the Scriptures predicted.”

Points of Interest:

  • ‘I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power’—This sentence is actually the end of yesterday’s passage. Jesus tells them that the life of one of his followers will not be all suffering; they will get amazing tastes of glory also. Six days later, three of them get just such a taste.
  • ‘Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus’—Moses and Elijah are two of the major figures of the Old Testament, the story of God’s people before Jesus arrived. Why do they all of a sudden appear here? It would seem to make sense for a number of reasons. Moses and Elijah also had notoriously difficult times getting God’s people to hear and understand God’s words; so maybe they are commiserating. An even better reason, though, is that they serve as proof of Jesus’ offer. Jesus has just asked his followers to lay down their lives trusting that he will give them better ones. These are big stakes to ask: what if it’s not really possible to be raised from the dead? You certainly wouldn’t want to find this out at the moment of death. So, Jesus introduces Peter, James, and John to two people who, by all rights, ought to be dead. They each lived hundreds of years ago: one of them died, and has apparently risen again; the other never tasted death and was immediately taken to heaven. They are—literally—living proof that Jesus can give life. A third reason is that Moses represents God’s law and Elijah represents prophecy. Jesus seems to be demonstrating to the disciples that in what he says, he has the backing of both God’s law and God’s prophecy.
  • ‘We will make three shrines’—Peter, awed at being in the presence of such greatness, just blurts something out. It seems like he’s fishing for a good reason for him to be there: hey, I can pitch tents for the three of you. By suggesting three shrines, Peter is putting them on equal footing. He might have thought that he was actually being pretty generous to Jesus, making him the peer of two of the most important men in Jewish history. But God the Father steps in and shows him just how great Jesus is. God says, ‘This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him,’ and when they look around, Moses and Elijah have disappeared. God is saying, even more than Moses and more than Elijah, you should listen to what Jesus has to say.
  • ‘This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him’—at the beginning of Mark’s story, God spoke to Jesus from heaven, saying, ‘You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.’ Here, as the second half of the story begins, God speaks from heaven again. This time, he speaks to the disciples, telling them that Jesus is his trustworthy son. This too is meant as validation for the words Jesus spoke yesterday. God’s voice from heaven is backing Jesus’ statement that trying to save your life only leads to death, and he is backing Jesus’ promise that he has true life to give.
  • ‘Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?’—Remember from the first day that the prophet Malachi prophesied that Elijah would come before the great and terrible day of the Lord—that is of the Messiah. The disciples have now heard that Jesus is the Messiah, and they have seen Elijah. They’re wondering whether they have just seen the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. Jesus seems to be telling them that they did, in fact, see the fulfillment, but it was at Jesus’ baptism and John’s martyrdom.

Taking it Home:

  • For you: If yesterday’s passage was overwhelming to you, ask Jesus for confirmation of its truth. Ask him to point you to more passages of the Bible that back Jesus’ warning and promise. Ask for a word from God.
  • For your 6: What are the other voices that your 6 listen to? They might not even be evil alternatives: Moses and Elijah certainly are not. But, Jesus’ voice has to be unique if we are to find life. Pray that God would diminish the other voices in your 6’s lives so that Jesus can be heard more clearly.
  • For our church: Ask that God would give our church moments of great glory. Ask for power in our times of worship, that they would be times that fuel us and encourage us for our life together of following Jesus.